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Newsletter: Delivery Of Japan's Seasonal Tradition

Delivered on August 17, 2014
Delivery Of Japan's Seasonal Tradition [Issue 31] August 17, 2014

Delivery Of Japan's Seasonal Tradition [Issue 31]
August 17, 2014
Japanese Traditional Culture Promotion & Development Organization


1. Seasonal Taste:
Used not only for eating but also for fortune telling:
"Ayu" (Sweetfish)

2. News from JTCO:
New article released!: Onta-yaki(Onta Pottery)

:: 1. Seasonal Taste

Used not only for eating but also for fortune telling:
"Ayu" (Sweetfish)

Here is a Japanese poem "Tanka" in Manyoshu, the oldest Japanese
anthology compiled in 7th-8th century.
"Matsuuragawa Kawanose Hikari Ayutsuruto Tataseruimoga Monosuso

Interpretation: The sleeves of a woman are wet in the shiny surface
of water as she fishes for sweetfish in Matsuura River.

This Tanka is in Hubokuwakashou, which is a collection of Japanese
poetries in the late Kamakura period (14th century).
"Kagaribino Kagenizo Shiruki Tamagawano Ayuhususeniwa Hikari

Interpretation: A lit bon fire on the boat reflects on the shoal of
Tama River. Fishermen are on the boat and trained cormorants are
swimming nearby fishing for sweetfish.

One of the Japanese special summer cuisines is sweetfish giving off a
savoury smell. Although young sweetfish caught in June soon after the
opening of the season for sweetfish fishing is popular, sweetfish
caught in August called "Doyou ayu(doyou means the hottest period of
summer)" also has scent and taste with matured excellence.

Sweetfish has been familiar to Japanese people since ancient times
and sung in many poems since the Manyo period (late 7th century). The
Tanka in the opening paragraph renders the scene that a woman fishing
for sweetfish in the Matsuura River in Kyushu in April on the lunar
calendar (on the May on the solar calendar). This Tanka was composed
based on the myth that an empress of Jingu divined the result of the
Samhan (Proto-Three Kingdoms of Korea) expedition. She undid the
thread from her kimono sleeve, tied it on a fish hook with a cooked
rice grain and threw it into the river. Her fishhook with a wish
caught a sweetfish successfully.

In China, "鮎" is a character meaning catfish, but this character
changed to signify sweetfish in Japan. From the structure of this
kanji (the Chinese characters used in Japanese writing), the left
side part means fish and the right side part means fortune telling.
This kanji was indeed originated from the myth mentioned in the
previous paragraph. According to one theory, the pronunciation of
"ayu" originates from the verb "ayuru," which means to "fall down" in
Japanese old language. As sweetfish has a habit of swimming down from
river to sea in autumn, "ayuru" influenced the Japanese pronunciation
of sweetfish,"ayu".

Engishiki is a Japanese book about laws and enforcement regulations,
published in the 10th century. In this book, we can see many fish
brought to the imperial court as presents. Sweetfish had the largest
amount and the widest producing area out of all fish. Fresh sweetfish
were brought from neighbouring area such as Lake Biwa (the largest
freshwater lake in Japan, located west-central Honshu), and the
processed sweetfish such as preserving in salt or dried were brought
from far areas. Like eel, sweetfish contains vitamin B1 and many
other vitamins or minerals. It must have been a good nourishing food
for them at that time.

The second Tanka in the opening paragraph was written in the
Hubokuwakashou, published in the 14th century. It describes the scene
of a cormorant fishing in the Tama River(Cormorant fishing is a way
of fishing using trained cormorants, which works as follows: Once a
cormorant swallows fish to their throat, they swim back to the boat
and throw up the fish into the basket). Due to an improvement of the
quality of water in Tama River, today we can pleasantly see more sweet
-fish there than it used to be. But it must have been an ordinary
summer scene in much older times.

Sweetfish is signified as 香魚 (read as "Shanyui", which means "a
fragrant fish") in the Chinese language. The best way of eating to
enjoy its taste and fragrance would be simply to broil the fish with
salt. It also might be a good idea to cook it in different ways.

Translation: Hitomi Kochi, reviewed by Marina Izumi

:: 2. News from JTCO

New article released!: Onta-yaki(Onta Pottery)

"小鹿田" is read as "Onta". The way of reading is not normal but the
word sounds so beautiful. Among lots of pottery product in Kyushu,
you can hardly find any other pottery with such a mysterious name.
About the pottery with such unforgettable name, people must have been
questioned how it was produced and what "Onta" means.


Translation: Chan Yitin

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Development Organization (JTCO)- All Rights Reserved.

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